Tag: evangelism

Does the How of Evangelism Really Matter?

Think about the last time you tried to share the gospel. What was going through your head? Were you angling to find an opening to mention Jesus? Or perhaps you were more intentional, looking for an opportunity to lay out a “gospel presentation” over lunch or coffee? This kind of evangelism focuses on what we have to say, not on what others are saying.

This can make our evangelism unbelievable. 

All too often we look to download gospel information instead of considering people’s objections. If we’re honest, we are often content with “name dropping” Jesus in a conversation because our evangelism is more about us and less about them. Saying Jesus’ name to a non-Christian gets us a √. Saying what Jesus did in the first century, on a cross, gets us a √+. This kind of evangelism is more about clearing our evangelical conscience than compassionately sharing the good news with fellow sinners.

This evangelism is unbelievable because it is motivated by unbelief in the gospel. Our hidden belief is that doing evangelism makes us better with God. Or better in front of spiritual peers we esteem.

The Self-Righteous Approach

The Lord certainly uses defective evangelism (Phil. 1:15-18), but that doesn’t mean we should promote it. In fact, the Bible repeatedly exhorts us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), watch our life and speech (1 Tim. 4:16), walk with wisdom toward outsiders (Col. 3:4-5), and live with others in a understanding way (Rom. 12:17-18). These texts all add up to tell us how we share the gospel matters.

The gospel can be easily dismissed because of the self-righteous manner of our gospel communication. When I was in college, I often felt guilty if days went by without sharing my faith. I was driven by performance. As a result, I’d end up sharing the righteousness of Christ with others in a self-righteous way. I would think to myself, “If I share the gospel, God will think better of me.” But that actually contradicts the gospel.

God thinks perfectly of us, not because of our right performance, but because of Jesus’ righteousness performance! When we are caught in the performance act, we may come off wooden or uncaring. People need to not only “hear” the gospel but also “feel” it in our speech. Good evangelism results in gospel stereo—Christ-shaped speech and action.

The Sheepish Approach

The gospel can also be dismissed due to the sheepish manner of our evangelism. Sometimes we are indifferent to evangelism because we don’t want to come off as preachy. I was sitting in a Starbucks when a gentlemen asked me what I was doing. I replied, “Working on a sermon.” Oh, great, here it comes. Yep, he replied by waving his hands back and forth, across one another, saying “Don’t preach to me, don’t preach to me!” All accompanied by a nervous chuckle. How would you respond?

I responded by saying, “You don’t have to worry about that.” Really?! I left the poor man with the wrong impression of gospel preaching—that it mounds up not relieves guilt. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus absorbs our guilt and sets us free. That’s just what he needed to hear, just not in a “preachy” way. My sheepish indifference left him stranded in guilt.

People interpret the gospel by how we say the gospel not just what we say.

But it’s not enough to critique self-righteous and sheepish evangelism. We must reconstruct a biblically faithful, culturally sensitive, and personally discerning way forward.

I propose Gospel Metaphors. You can read more about them at UnbelievableGospel.com

5 “Best” Books on Evangelism

It’s hard to list five favorite books on evangelism, not because I command a vast knowledge of evangelistic literature, but because there are so many different types of “texts” or fields of knowledge that motivate and inform evangelism. Evangelism is a way of thinking first and a way of speaking second.

For example, a great missionary biography, like Amy Carmichael or Adoniram Judson, can awaken evangelistic zeal and commitment to perseverance through the difficulty of mission. Apologetic books stimulate evangelistic wisdom. Penetrating cultural texts, like Peter Berger’s A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural or David Brooks recent New York Times column on the vacuous, contemporary pursuit of “meaningfulness,” motivate us to communicate the deeper, broader, grander alternative to modernity and relativistic consumer culture—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Practical books can fill in knowledge gaps, strengthen skill, and inspire with stories. Aesthetic texts, like poetry, fiction, or art can remind you how beautiful the gospel is, and its centerpiece, Jesus our Lord. They remind us to show how attractive Christ is, not just how reasonable his offer. Then there’s the human texts. A good evangelist will not merely address but also readpeople. There’s nothing like spending time with a skeptic, seeker, or sufferer to motivate prayerfulness and excitement about the relevance of Jesus Christ as the truth for doubters, the way for seekers, and the life for sufferers. If we read them well, we will see something of the gospel in their doubt, curiosity, and difficulty.

By now you are probably thinking this was all just a ploy to list more than five books! So, without dragging on, here are five books from different fields that are my “favorites” in evangelism.

 

4 New Videos on The Unbelievable Gospel

Here’s a string of new videos to go with my book The Unbelievable Gospel, which won “Book of the Year” in the Evangelism/Apologetics category in the Christianity Today awards. Feel free to use them in teaching, posting on your blog, or however they might be helpful.

What is Re-evangelization? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

Does Anything Need to Change in Personal Evangelism? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

Why Do People Find the Gospel Unbelievable? from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

What is a Multi-Dimensional Gospel? – Jonathan Dodson from Jonathan Dodson on Vimeo.

Barrs, Schaeffer, Evangelism, & #1 Bestseller $.99!

9781433503184When researching for my book on evangelism, The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth BelievingI dipped into two of Jerram Barrs books. Professor Barrs studied under Francis Schaeffer, and is Professor of of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture & Resident Scholar of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. His writings carry the flavor of Schaeffer, but with his own personal style. His very helpful book Learning Evangelism from Jesus is only 99 cents right now at Amazon. Snap it up!

I contacted Jerram to ask if he would read my book and consider an endorsement. I was thrilled when he wrote this back in in return:

“This is a wonderful book which I will repeatedly return to myself for my own edification and encouragement and will gladly urge others to read.

Indeed, as I was reading Jonathan’s account of the ‘defeaters’ which make evangelism a real challenge for many Christians and which also are a turn-off to many non-Christians, I kept thinking of people to whom I am eager to give this book. Jonathan faces head on the kinds of evangelism which have left a bitter taste in the mouths of Christians who have felt compelled to try them, and which have left a bitter cynicism about Christians and about the gospel in the hearts of non-Christians on whom they have been tried and found wanting.

I loved the many stories he tells as he unfolds a full-orbed biblical approach to sharing the gospel and I also loved his passion to understand unbelievers and their inmost needs and devotions. This is a book for pastors and ministry leaders and also one for all Christians. Jonathan’s book will not make you feel guilty and ashamed that you are not a great evangelist, or that you are an inadequate one or a poor one; but this book will encourage and motivate you to think about evangelism in new and helpful ways.”

I highly recommend his book, and at 99 cents you can’t afford to not pick it up! It is loaded with wisdom that is often lacking in current evangelistic training and practice.